A mission of hope: Pray for priests

Jared Staudt

Ecclesia semper reformanda: The Church must always be reformed. These words have hit home recently in the midst of a crisis of confidence in the Church. The sins of our leaders have discouraged us, although we can also recognize a profound crisis of faith and holiness affecting all the members of the Church. The Lord calls his entire Church to renewal through prayer and a life conformed to him. In this renewal, we must pray for our leaders especially, our bishops, priests, deacons, and religious, because we depend on them to model the Christian life for us and to support us in our own growth.

A Benedictine monk has shared profound insights on the importance of adoration in the life of priests and the need for everyone to pray for the holiness of priests. This anonymous monk has shared the inspirations he received of Jesus speaking to him in prayer: In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Angelico, 2016, with imprimatur from the Bishop of Meath). Although the work addresses itself most directly to priests, I found much encouragement in the book through a call to a stronger friendship with Jesus through adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

For instance, take this message from December 20, 2011: “The practice of adoration is not difficult. It is a gentle abiding in My presence, a resting in the radiance of My Eucharistic Face, a closeness to My Eucharist Heart. Words, though sometimes helpful, are not necessary, nor are thoughts. What I seek from one who would adore Me in spirit and in truth is a heart aflame with love, a heart content to abide in My presence silent and still, engaged only in the act of loving Me and of receiving My love. Though this is not difficult, it is, all the same, My own gift to the soul who asks for it. Ask then for the gift of adoration” (208).

We can be afraid of silent prayer because we do not know what to say or do. The book invites us simply to be with Jesus and to spend time with him in love. We do not have to worry about making good use of the time, as this puts the emphasis on us, but to allow Jesus to act in us as we fix our attention and our heart on him. “Give me your attention and I will work the wonders of My merciful love in your soul. Hold yourself facing Me. Abide in My presence gently, without forcing yourself to produce thoughts, feelings, or sensations . . . All that is necessary is faith, and with faith, hope, and with hope, the love that binds the soul to Me and makes union with Me a reality” (200).

Although the message of adoration applies to everyone, the author relates the development of his own vocation to form a Benedictine monastery dedicated to perpetual adoration for the sanctification of priests. “By the prayer of adoration for My priests, you are working with Me for them. You are working with Me to lift them when they fall, to bind up their wounds, to deliver them from bondage to evil, to open them to My gifts, and to obtain for them a great openness to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit. Your union with Me in prayer lessens the resistance of many priests to entering resolutely upon the path of holiness that I am opening before them” (119).

The book contains many beautiful prayers (compiled also in an appendix), which guide us in responding to Jesus’ call for increased trust through prayer. Here is one example: “My Jesus, only as Thou willest, when Thou willest, and in the way Thou willest, To Thee be all glory and thanksgiving, Who rulest all things mightily and sweetly, and Who fillest the earth with Thy manifold mercies. Amen” (131).

In addition, it proposes a Chaplet of Reparation, also called an Offering of the Precious Blood for Priests, which enables us to join the mission of praying for priests. “On the Our Father bead: Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Thy Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish or spot, in reparation for my sin and for the sins of all Thy priests. On the Hail Mary beads: By Thy Precious Blood, O Jesus, purify and sanctify Thy priests. In place of the Glory be to the Father: O Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named, have mercy on all Thy priests, and wash them in the Blood of the Lamb” (269).

In Sinu Jesu calls us to a deeper love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as inviting us into the needed mission to pray for our shepherds. In a time of discouragement, it offers us hope through the power of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to renew his Church.

COMING UP: Thomas Fitzsimons: The unsung Catholic Founding Father 

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As our nation celebrates the day of its independence and subsequent founding as a country on July 4, a look back some lesser-knowCatholic history of this historic event seems warranted.  

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin: these are names every American knows. Pull out your wallet and you’ll likely see at least one of their faces on the money you carry aroundAnd while this nation was founded on principles rooted in Christianity, none of these men were Catholic. In fact, of the men history calls the Founding Fathers of America, only two were. 

Many may already be familiar with Founding Father Charles Carroll, a Catholic and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and whose brother John was the first Catholic bishop assigned to what would become the United States. However, Carroll was not the only Catholic who played a role in the founding of our country. The other was Thomas Fitzsimons, a name that is not mentioned much (if at all) in U.S. history classes but deserves to be recognized nonetheless.  

The unwieldy named Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, published in 1887, paints a vivid picture of Fitzsimons and the way his faith informed his character. While the other Founding Fathers were meeting and deliberating about the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons joined the Continental Army anfought on the frontlines against the British army. 

Captain Fitzsimons commanded his company of militia until 1778, when France entered the war. British troops withdrew from Pennsylvania and began to focus on the southern states. It was at this time that Fitzsimons became more involved in politics at the state level. In 1782, he became a delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1786, he was elected as a Pennsylvania state legislator and served for three terms until 1789. In 1787, he was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Congress, where the United States Constitution was written and ratified. He, along with Daniel Carroll, were the only two Catholics to sign to Constitution. 

Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1741, not much else is known about Fitzsimons’ family. He had three brothers – Nicholas, Andrew and John – and one sister, Ann. He and his family immigrated to America as early as 1760, where they became residents of Philadelphia. It was here that Fitzsimons would stake his claim as a businessman and politician. 

In 1763, Fitzsimons married Catharine Meade, whose brother, George Meade, would later go into business with Fitzsimons and build one of the most successful commercial trade houses in Philadelphia. Throughout his life, Fitzsimons was in close correspondence with Bishop John Carrollthese letters revealed insights into the Catholic Founding Father’s personal life. In a letter to Bishop Carroll in 1808, Fitzsimons wrote of being married to Catharine for 45 years. Additionally, local baptismal records show that he and Catharine stood as sponsors at the baptisms of three of Meade’s children. 

In 1774, Fitzsimons began his first foray into politics when he was elected as one of 13 Provincial Deputies who were given authority to call a general meeting of the citizens. It is believed he was the first Catholic to have ever held public office in the budding United States. Even so, anti-Catholic bigotry was common at the time and did exist within some of his fellow statesmen, such as John Adams, who once said in an address to the people of Great Britain that the Catholic faith was “a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” 

Fitzsimons’ first stint in public office was brief, only lasting from May to July, but it was a foreshadowing his future involvement in state affairs. As the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Fitzsimons formed a company of soldiers to fight against the British army. He was assigned to the Third Battalion under Col. Cadwalader and Lieut. Col. John Nixon, who was the grandson of a Catholic. Behind the scenes, as George Washington and the like organized committees and framed what would become the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons ascended to the rank of Captain and continued to serve his country as a soldier and patriot.

In addition to his tenure as a commanding officer and politician, Fitzsimons also found success in other ventures. In 1781, he helped found the Bank of North America, the United States’ first de facto central bank, and served as its director until 1803. The latter years of his life were spent primarily in private business, but he maintained a consistent interest in public affairs; even Fitzsimons wasn’t exempt from the old adage, “once a politician, always a politician.” 

Through all of these endeavors, and even after befalling troubled financial times in the early 1800s, Fitzsimons remained a diligent philanthropist. He gave immense support to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia and was invested in the improvement of public education in the commonwealth. As one of his contemporaries wrote after his death in 1811, “he died in the esteem, affection and gratitude of all classes of his fellow citizens.” 

Fitzsimons was buried in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia, which is now part of Independence National Historical Park. His name may not be a household one like Washington or Jefferson, but Fitzsimons can be remembered as something of an unsung Founding Father of the United Statesa man whose life of quiet faith, humble service and admirable patriotism exemplifies the values that this country was founded upon in a simple yet profound way.